Thursday, May 21, 2015

Masbate police arrest No.1, No. 4 illegal drug personalities of San Pascual town

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, May 21 (PNA) -- Combined elements of the San Pascual Municipal Police Station led by Police Senior Insp. Edgar Butch A, Moraleda and other police units in Masbate arrested the No. 1 and No. 4 drug personalities in San Pascual, Masbate, at about 9:40 p.m. Tuesday at Barangay Bolod, San Pascual, Masbate.

Arrested were Baylon R. Patropez, 42, No. 1 drug personality in the municipality, and Felix R. Patropez, 44, No. 4 drug personality also in the same place.

The two Patropezes were arrested by virtue of Search Warrant No. 2015-45 and Search Warrant No. 2015-46 issued by Manuel L. Sese, judge of RTC Branch 45, Masbate City for violation of R.A. 9165.

Searches and seizures were done in an orderly manner and in the presence of witnesses Barangay Kagawad (Village Councilman) Ronaldo R. Frias, Barangay Kagawad Richard Layba, Barangay Captain Ruben G. Padilla, Barangay Kagawad Cynthia O. Vilar, Police Senior Officer Roberto Padilla and PSO Faulino Villaranda -- all of Barangay Bolod, San Pascual, Masbate.

During the search, the raiding team recovered from Baylon Patropez’s actual possession and control cash money amounting to PHP31,405, 24 pieces (13 small, 11 medium) transparent heat-sealed plastic sachets containing substance believed to be methamphetamine hydrochloride commonly known as “shabu” with estimated weight of about 26.4 grams and estimated street value of more or less PHP85,000, one piece digital weighing scale, five cell phones (Nokia N111, Cherry Mobile D11, Firefly Mobile LITE, Black and white Cherry Mobile Flare), 280 empty small plastic sachets and 83 medium empty plastic sachets, and drug paraphernalia. including lighters.

Recovered from Felix Patropez’s actual possession and control were cash money amounting to PHP684, one piece small transparent heat-sealed sachet containing suspected shabu with estimated street value of about PHP500, one caliber .22, one piece live ammunition of caliber 9mm and drug paraphernalia. including lighters.

The two suspects were immediately placed under arrest and duly informed of their Miranda rights and subsequently brought to the San Pascual Municipal Police Station together with the recovered drug and non-drug evidence for proper disposition.

Other members of the raiding team were operatives from the 5th Regional Public Safety Battalion-1st Maneuver Company led by Police Senior Insp. Joseph Abel D. Jarabejo, Provincial Public Safety Company-Masbate PPO led by Police Senior Inspector Allan E. Macoy and the Provincial Intelligence Service of the Masbate PPO led by Benjie Calixto.(PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

Bicol police chief orders no whitewash on probe of misencounter in Legazpi village
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, May 20 (PNA) -- Chief Supt. Victor Deona, Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol regional director, on Wednesday ordered a full investigation on the reported misencounter on Tuesday morning between PNP members and a squad of Philippine Army soldiers that killed a police officer and wounded another cop in Sitio (sub-village) San Jose, Barangay (village) Maslog here.

Deona said he had ordered a no-whitewash investigation of the incident, saying “I gave Sr. Supt. Marlo Meneses, Albay provincial director, 72 hours to investigate whether indeed there was a misencounter and recommend appropriate actions so that no similar incident would happen in the future.”

In a phone interview, Deona assured that the probe would be transparent, as the investigating team has already started gathering pieces of evidence in the encounter site and testimonies from policemen patrolling the area.

The investigation will also determine if there were operational lapses committed, specifically, if there were “coordination” protocols violated.

Quoting initial scene of the crime operatives (SOCO) report, Deona said operatives have recovered an M16 rifle, cell phones, wristwatch, empty bullet shells and slugs at the clash scene, which is about 200 meters away from the barangay road.

Meneses said in a text message that two teams from the Albay Public Safety Command (PPSC) were on security operations after receiving intelligence report that an NPA leader would visit a relative in the village, which was at that time celebrating its fiesta.

He said the teams were also responding to reports about the presence of armed group in the area.

Army Lt. Col. Perfecto Penaredondo, commanding officer of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, said in a text message that “as of now, we are investigating elements of our unit who figured in a clash at almost the same vicinity in Barangay Maslog yesterday.”

He said his squad of Army soldiers responded to an earlier tip about NPA presence in the area, after checking with the City Police Action Center in Barangay Taysan, a neighboring upland village in the southern part of the city.

Penaredondo further said investigation is also being conducted by his command to see if there are any possible lapses.

He said the firearms used by his men have been collected for ballistic examination to determine if these were the ones that hit the PNP men or the bullets were from the NPA rebels.

The alleged misencounter was reported by a press statement issued on Tuesday by the New People’s Army (NPA) Santos Binamira Command, saying that no members of their group were operating in that area when the incident occurred.

The Santos-Binamira command claimed that the incident was a misencounter as the police were engaged in a gunbattle with a group of Army soldiers who were also in the same area.

The engagement, which lasted for 45 minutes, led to the killing of PO3 Rene Balaguer and the wounding of PO2 Ronald Bondad, both members of the 16-man Albay PPSC team.(PNA) CTB/FGS/MSA/CBD/

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2 cops wounded in clash with NPA rebels in upland Legazpi village

LEGAZPI CITY, May 19 (PNA) -- Two policemen were wounded Tuesday morning in an encounter between Philippine National Police (PNP) forces and an undetermined number of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Sitio (sub-village) San Jose, Barangay Maslog, an upland village of this city, a PNP officer said.

Wounded in the clash were Police Officer 2 (PO2) Ronald Bondad and a policeman who is yet to be identified. The two were rushed to the Aquinas Hospital, Police Senior Supt. Marlo S. Meneses, PNP Albay provincial director, said.

Meneses said in a text message that two teams from the Albay Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) were on security patrol at around 9:15 a.m. Tuesday at a mountainous area of Purok 5, Sitio San Jose when they encountered the undetermined number of NPA rebels.

The incident led into a 45-minute firefight where the two police officers were seriously injured.

A report said the NPA rebels were positioned at a vantage point when they fired at the police patrol team but its members were able to retaliate.

The communist rebels immediately fled the scene when they were outnumbered upon the arrival of the reinforcing policemen.

Meneses said the two patrol teams, composed of 16 men led by led SPO4 Alfredo Bolanos and SPO1 Perfecto Rojas, were on a security patrol as they were tipped of the presence of armed men in the area.

Sitio San Jose residents were celebrating their village fiesta.

Fiesta visitors claimed that upon hearing gun shots, they immediately ducked to the floor of the residences with their faces on the floor and stayed in that position for almost two hours.

As of press time, the police officers were still in still in hot pursuit of the rebels who, Meneses said, could have been carrying wounded comrades during their escape.

They also put up check points in the area as a precautionary measure. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/

Phivolcs to public: Don’t trust the present condition of Mayon, Bulusan volcanos
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, May 19 (PNA) – Don’t trust the present condition of the Mayon and Bulusans volcanos!

This is the advice of Dr. Ed Laguerta, the veteran resident volcanologist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in Bicol, saying there are still volcanic activities going on inside the two active volcanos.

Laguerta said they are closely observing two critical activities of Mt. Mayon: its continuous ground swelling and the amount of sulfur dioxide that it has been emitting for the past two months.

"There has been sporadic sulfur dioxide emission of more than 1,000 metric tons per day for the last two months," he said.

In this connection, the Phivolcs official said, he plans to request an aerial survey of the volcano to see the present condition of its summit, particularly the lava dome formed last year.

“It is important that we see and evaluate its present situation,” Laguerta said.

He said they will schedule an aerial survey for both Mayon and Bulusan volcanos to save on expenses.

The experienced volcanologist said that during the last aerial survey on Mt. Bulusan, they were not able to see the real situation at the summit due to the thick clouds that time.

“The ground is still inflated even it has exploded twice already,” he said.

Quakes, however, rock the volcano, which means there is continuous activity inside it.

Laguerta noted the different behavior of Bulusan because even there are quakes it does not explode but it suddenly erupts even there is no quake.

He advised the villagers to stay away from the four-kilometer permanent danger zone around Mt. Bulusan and the six-km PDZ around Mayon Volcano. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

Albay Agta-Tabangnon tribe member working as house helper graduates from community college
By Jessaveth Barcia (OJT)

TIWI, ALBAY, May 19 (PNA) -- After almost seven years of serving as a house helper to the Canicula family here, who helped her pursue her studies, an indigenous girl from the Agta-Tabangnon tribe graduated from college this year.

Marilyn "Lyn" Competente, a 21-year-old daughter of Luis and Anecia Competente from Mayong, Tiwi, Albay, graduated from the Tiwi Community College and received her diploma last March 27 through the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Department of Education.

ALS is a free education program implemented by the DepEd under the Bureau of Alternative Learning System for those who cannot afford formal schooling.

Among the nine siblings, Lyn is the only daughter who graduated from college with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education.

"ALS is really a blessing, especially for poor people like me. Without this program, my dream would have not come true. Please pray for me that I can pass the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) to help my family pay back the blessings that I have received and be an inspiration to other hopeless children who don't want to pursue their schooling, the drop-outs and especially the young mom," Lyn told the Philippines News Agency in an interview Monday.

Lyn was also thankful to the Canicula family for supporting her and making her realize her dreams.

"They are the ones who sustained my needs, which my parents couldn't afford due to too much poverty. Now, I realize how significant education is to everyone. Sacrifice and perseverance are the only key to success," Lyn added.

Amar Canicula, a mobile teacher of ALS, helped her to finish her college as a reward for serving his family and taking care of his five young children.

"As a mobile teacher, I'm not working for my salary but to help, share my blessings of what I have, love my everlasting service and make people change their attitude and their way of life," Canicula explained.

After those hardships that she encountered in her four years of study in her alma mater, Lyn is now taking a two-month LET review for the coming exam in September. (PNA) CTB//FGS/JB/CBD/EBP

Oas town's 1st Puto Festival a success
By Cyndi Jocelle E. Orolfo (OJT)

OAS, Albay, May 19 (PNA) --The Local Government Unit of Oas successfully celebrated its First Oas Puto Festival which ended last week.

This was the assessment of Don Mape, Office of the Mayor spokesman, as he said the festival will now become a regular annual event of the town in accordance with the "One Town, One Product" initiative of the municipality.

It is along this line that the municipal government conceived the Puto Festival in parallel with Guinobatan town’s Longganisa Festival and Camalig town’s Pinangat Festival.

The Karangahan Festival, which was first celebrated in the town in 1965, gave way to the new festival, which would further enhance the association of the town with its puto as specialty product.

Mape said LGU sponsored a training, especially on packaging, during the festival.

He said they have also plans to put up a Pasalubong Center where all the goods and finished products of the town and the province can be featured.

The duration of the festival also saw the presence of agri-fishery booths where the goods of the eight coastal barangays of Oas were highlighted. (PNA) CTB/FGS/OJT/CBD

Albay allots Php20M for employees’ incentive
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, May 19 (PNA) -- The provincial government of Albay (PGA) has allotted Php 20 million for the Productivity Enhancement Incentive (PEI) of provincial employees.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda has ordered the release of Php20 million after President Aquino signed Executive Order 181 giving a one-time grant of the PEI, equivalent to either Php5,000 or one- month basic salary as of May 31 of the government employees across the country.

“We are releasing it on June 1, just in time for payment of tuition and other upfront school expenses,” Salceda said.

He said Albay had the performance and the financial savings to grant the one-month PEI in accordance with EO181.

Since 2007, the PGA has consistently exercised fiscal prudence even while exceeding its fundamental goals in education, health, tourism, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and agriculture which can only be achieved with the zealous work and robust collaboration of its employees and all the units in the entire organization, the governor said.

The PEI covers government employees from national government agencies, Congress, judiciary, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Elections, Office of the Ombudsman, government-owned or -controlled corporations, local water districts, government financial institutions, and local government units.

For the government personnel to receive the incentive, they must have four months’ tenure in government before May 31.

But consultants or laborers hired through job contracts, student workers and apprentices and individuals as well as groups whose services are engaged through job orders, contract of services and other similarly situated are excluded from receiving the government incentive.

The government gives Php5,000 every year to regular employees, but the newly signed EO allows it to extend a productivity incentive equivalent to one-month salary under the Aquino administration.

With this, the PGA approved the release of PEI covering one-month basic salary to all its qualified employees and releasing the same on June 1. (PNA) RMA/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Young geologists arrive in Albay to survey reactivated gully in Guinobatan village
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, May 19 (PNA) -– A group of young geologists from the head office of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in Quezon City arrived here Monday to conduct a thorough study of the general condition, especially of lahar deposit, in Barangay Maninila and neighboring villages in Guinobatan town.

The geologists are Ericson Bariso of Bacacay, Albay; Danikko Rivera and Marie Thess Quilalang who are graduates of the University of the Philippines and Adamson University.

They have been with the Phivolcs for three years.

The three will stay here for one week and will work under the supervision of veteran resident volcanologist Dr. Ed Laguerta.

Rivera said their two important missions are to measure the amount of lahar deposit and its threat to Barangay Maninila and its neighboring villages.

Second is to find out what caused the changes in the topography in the area and condition of the gully.

The team has a complete set of instruments for the survey.

After the survey, the group will prepare a consolidated report for submission to the Phivolcs head office.

The survey result will be used in appropriate scenario analysis which will be the basis of the recommendation of the Phivolcs to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of Albay headed by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, the Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office led by Dr. Cedric Daep and the local government unit of Guinobatan.

Daep said the presence of the geologists in the province is the response of the Phivolcs to the request of the Provincial Government of Albay in connection with the re-activated gully in Guinobatan town.

He said it would be better to make the survey in the area at this early before the rainy season comes for the safety of the villagers in Maninila, Tandarora, Maipon, Travesia, San Rafael and adjoining barangays due to the threat of danger that could be brought by the re-activated gully.

About 2,000 families live in the area.

Daep stressed the need for an engineering intervention in the area and make a report to the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Japan International Cooperation Agency through the Provincal Engineering Office headed by engineer Dante Baclao.

He said the volcanic materials from Mayon should be filtered so that only water will reach the lower portion of the area.

The APSEMO head added that situation is not only true to Guinobatan but also to other areas around Mayon, that is why, he said, it is important to study these areas.

Daep said billions of fund are needed for the project. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD/SSC .

Salceda bares comprehensive plan for Albay’s 2nd district
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, May 19 (PNA) -- Governor Joey Sarte Salceda on Monday laid out his comprehensive plan for the second congressional district of Albay, whose seat he is seeking in 2016 after his term as chief executive of the province.

Salceda said his move was a critical decision he made.

He said in his eight years of serving as governor, he was able to buy a residence at Purok 5, Barangay Penafrancia in the nearby Daraga town where he has been staying so he would be close to the Provincial Capitol and be more effective in his work as the highest official of the province.

Salceda disclosed that during the past two years, he just listened and observed, and based on what he had gathered, he made his decision to run as congressman of the second district of Albay amid the big challenge to bring the district to a higher level of development and growth.

"I listened for two years and our people led me to this decision as the best way, and with the biggest challenge, to level up the Albay's transformation work-in-progress,” he explained.

The wold-renowned economist said there are 17 plans that he would pursue as the representative of the people of the second district of Albay:

-- To ensure the completion and operationalization of the Daraga or Bicol International Airport that is expected to be finished and be on stream in July 2017;

-- To continue implementing tourism program and tourism infrastructure projects, developing wider market for tourism internally and internationally, and promoting local and international tourism events especially in the towns of Camalig and Daraga and in Legazpi City;

-- To push for the transformation of Daraga from a town to a city through a legislative act.

-- To sponsor a bill adding one more district in Albay to raise the number to four as this, he said, is the key to a balanced representation of the 1.3 million Albayanos and additional funding from the national government;

-- To push for the southrail project or Manila-Albay-Matnog rail project, of which he is a part, which is now in the state of private-public partnership bidding. The central station of the project will be in Barangay Comun in Camalig, with spur lines going to Legazpi City and Matnog, Sorsogon;

-- To help in the realization of the extension of the Southern Luzon Expressway to Matnog, Sorsogon, as the center of the 2045 or Luzon Spatial Development Framework under the Luzon Area Development.Coordinating Council, which Salceda heads for two terms;

-- To ensure the approval of the funding for a bridge between Cagraray and Batan islands and another one connecting the islands of Batan and Rapu-Rapu;

-- To work for the funding for the Albay Dos, a watershed and agricultural development that covers the highlands of Camalig and Daraga towns and Legazpi City;

-- To continue on the ongoing work and funding for the GuiCaDaLe Economic Township and the AlMaSor Tourism Alliance;

-- to push for the redevelopment of the old Legazpi Airport to make it the center of tourism or centerpiece of integrated tourism development. Its lot is owned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines;

-- To effect the second wave of the modernization of the Bicol University;

-- To continue the modernization of the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital to make it the heart, lung, trauma and cancer center in South Luzon;

-- To make the Climate Change Academy a training institute under the Office of Civil Defense;

-- To work for the institutionalization of Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme through a law to ensure funding for students who will pursue college education after the K-12;

-- To work for the condonation of the Php50-billion loan of agrarian reform beneficiaries;

-- To push for a constitutional amendment towards a federal form of government; and,

-- To help make cooperatives the center of institutions towards sustainable development to build the structure towards long-term public investments.

Salceda said these plans evolved from his unselfish and tireless work in Congress for nine years where he became chairman of the trade committee during his first term, chairman of the oversight committee in his second term, chairman of economic affairs committee and chairman of appropriations in his last term.

He has nine years of executive experience and headed the Bicol Regional Development Council for nine years. (PNA) FPV/FGS/NIM/CBD/SSC

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sorsogon town farmers get 70 bags of high-breed corn
By Jonalyn Pronce

PILAR, Sorsogon (PNA) -- At least 70 bags of high-breed yellow corn are now available to farmers of this town, Emma Miranda, corn technician, told farmers here on Friday.

Miranda said there are 312.64 hectares being tended to by 391 corn farmers who will benefit from the project.

The project is under the Community Seed Banking, which aims to provide high-breed crops to farmers to help them spend less and produce quality crops.

"Actually we started this May and hopefully we will hit our target project by June. We will give this privilege to all our potential corn farmers so that they will be able to produce corn seedlings for their farm," Miranda said.

She said they are strictly monitoring the land because they want to help the farmers in any way they can. (PNA) LAP/rck/FGS/OJT/cbd

100 more K-12 classrooms due for construction in Albay's 3rd district this year
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 15 (PNA) -– Apart from the 48 earlier announced, a total of 100 more classrooms are due for construction in the third district of Albay this year as part of the preparations for next year’s start of the senior high school (SHS) program.

“In line with the implementation of SHS under the K-12 Basic Education Program by the Aquino Administration, the school buildings shall soon rise in the municipalities of Polangui, Pioduran, Oas and Jovellar, all within Albay’s third congressional district,” Rep. Fernando Gonzalez on Friday told the Philippines News Agency here.

For Polangui, the first tranche of the project are for a two-storey, four-classroom building assigned to the Barangay Itaran National High School-Maysua Extension; two classrooms in La Medalla High School; two classrooms in Magpananbo National High School; two-storey, six-classroom building at Matacon National High School; and two-storey, eight-classroom building for the Polangui General Comprehensive High School.

Its second tranche would be for a two-storey, four-classroom in Itaran National High School and another two-storey of six classrooms in Lanigay High School, Gonzalez said.

For Pioduran, the first tranche of the project is for two classrooms each at the Alabangpuro and Malapay High Schools; a two-storey, six-classroom building for the Malidong National High School; and a two-storey, four-classroom building at Marigondon National High School.

Oas town gets a total of 42 classrooms—four each for the Maramba and Cagmanaba National High Schools; six each on a two-storey building each at the Oas Polytechnic School, San Juan High School and Saban National High School; four each on a two-storey building each at San Miguel and Tabog High Schools; six on a two-storey building at Balogo High School; and two at the Sabino Rebagay Memorial High School.

For Jovellar, a two-storey, six-classroom building has been assigned at the Jovellar National High School; four classrooms on a two-storey building at the Mamlad National High School; and two classrooms on a single-storey building in San Isidro National High School.

Earlier, Gonzalez also announced that 48 classrooms are up for construction at various government secondary schools in Guinobatan, another town covered by the district under his representation.

Apart from these five towns, the district also includes the City of Ligao and the municipality of Libon where, Gonzalez said, more classrooms will also be constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highway and the Department of Education for the scheduled opening of the SHS curricula in school-year 2016-2017.

“My office is monitoring these projects as part of the responsibilities of a congressman in representing his people to the national government,” he said.

DepEd Regional Director for Bicol Ramon Abcede explained that SHS is two years of specialized upper secondary education where students may choose a specialization based on aptitude, interests, and school capacity.

The choice of career track will define the content of the subjects that fall under either the Core Curriculum or specific tracks a student will take in Grades 11 and 12.

There are seven learning areas under the Core Curriculum -- Languages, Literature, Communication, Mathematics, Philosophy, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences -- while the current content from some general Education subjects are embedded in this curriculum.

Each student in SHS, according to Abcede, can choose among three tracks -- Academic; Technical-Vocational-Livelihood; and Sports and Arts.

The Academic track includes three strands -- Business, Accountancy, Management; Humanities, Education, Social Sciences; and Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.

Students undergo immersion, which may include earn-while-you-learn opportunities, to provide them relevant exposure and actual experience in their chosen track, the DepEd regional chief said, adding that preparations for the SHS implementation next year in Bicol are this time in full swing.

As part of the continuous preparations for the full implementation of the K + 12 program, the DepEd Central Office has recently released online the initial list of public and private schools, including higher education and technical-vocational institutions and state universities and colleges nationwide that would offer SHS classes starting next year.

DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro said “the 2014 and 2015 budgets already have allocations for 30,000 classrooms for SHS.”

He also mentioned that the initial target for the proposed 2016 budget, which is subject for approval, is over 20,000 classrooms for SHS and the government shall further allocate investments for SHS.

The partial list shows 3,839 public schools that were submitted to the Department of Budget and Management for funding and to the DPWH for bidding and construction of new facilities.

Also included is the initial list of the 1,866 non-DepEd (private) schools that have been cleared to offer SHS come June 2016 and there are still applications being processed.

“We in this district are deeply grateful to Pres. Benigno Aquino III for these incoming classrooms that certainly will help a lot in providing our children access to basic education under the K-12 curricula,” Gonzalez said. (PNA) FFC/rck/FGS/DOC/cbd

Sorsogon village unveils newest tourist attraction
By Jonalyn Pronce

PILAR, Sorsogon, May 15 (PNA) -- The view of racing vehicles would give one an idea that there is a new tourist attraction here.

About nine kilometers from Pilar town proper, or 30 to 45 minutes’ ride, is Barangay San Antonio, with its captivating beauty -- the Pitocad.

Pitocad derived its name from "pito,” which means seven, because of the seven-foot sea level unveiling before one, which features alluring hard and soft corral reefs.

"It takes just five minutes by a motorboat before you reach the Pitocad," said Barangay Captain Tomas Guerrero.

The place is still in the process of development by the barangay officials and tourism personnel of Pilar town.

The shimmering blue, sometimes turquoise water lights up the dreams and hopes of the residents of the barangay.

The hypnotizing sea unwraps the species living in the place.

"The Bureau of fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has visited the place and it found out that it is one of the most beautiful sceneries for tourist destination," Guerrero said.

The place is surrounded by rich coconut trees that provide a balancing view to Pitocad.

"We are polishing this project to transform our barangay into a new tourist destination. The Pitocad will serve as a diving place if ever the tourism department will approve its as one of the attractions of Sorsogon," the village chief added.

It will also help the barangay raise funds to introduce more developments in the area, he said.

“We are not only developing it but we also want to maintain the equilibrium of nature. This place will be the heart of beauty in our barangay," Guerrero said.

And as the dazzling discovery satisfies one’s curiosity, the Pitocad is waiting for anyone who wants to weave good memories.(PNA) LAP/rck/FGS/OJT/cbd

Army soldiers recover 2 IEDs after clash with NPA in Sorsogon

LEGAZPI CITY, May 15 (PNA) -- Philippine Army soldiers recovered two improvised explosive devices (IED) following an encounter on Friday morning with communist rebels in Barangay San Isidro, a remote village in Bulusan, Sorsogon, an Army officer said.

Army Captain Marjorie Panesa, 9th Infantry Division public affairs chief, said an Army platoon led by 1Lt. Julieto Pollescase of the 31st Infantry Battalion was on a security operation when they chanced upon a 15-man New People’s Army (NPA) rebels at Sitio (sub-village) Kapirikuhan, Barangay San Isidro at around 5:30 a.m. Friday.

A 10-minute running gun battle ensued where fleeing communist guerrilla’s left behind two IEDs and wires.

Panesa said the NPA band was headed by guerrilla leader only known as Ka Hazel.

As of press time, Army troopers were still scouring neighboring villages for the fleeing rebels.

As this developed, two militia men survived an NPA attack in Barangay Bagangan in Lupi town in Camarines Sur on Thursday afternoon, Panesa said.

The two militia men, identified only as Lazarte and Carcedo, who are members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, were preparing for an upcoming event in that village when they were fired at by armed men believed to be communist rebels.

Panesa warned militia forces and soldiers that, according to military intelligence, the NPA is on a killing spree, citing the recent killing of Arlam Madrilejos, a CAFGU member, while doing some marketing last Sunday.(PNA) LAP/rck/FGS/MSA/cbd/

Albay HIV cases continue to rise
By Judy Ann Peralta (OJT)

LEGAZPI CITY, May 15 (PNA) -- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cases in Albay continue to increase, according to Mike de la Rama, Albay AIDS Council coordinator, said Friday.

De la Rama said there are now 72 Albayanos infected with HIV and 19 of them are taking anti-retroviral therapy.

In general, there are now 101 reported cases that are in the treatment hub in the Bicol Region.

The Albay AIDS Council is now full blast in its effort to spread information to make people aware of the HIV infection by means of school-based information and education.

It has also been distributing condoms as education material during outreach, makes available free voluntary HIV counseling and testing service, and does multi- sectoral coordination through the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC).

In the national level, as of March, there are 21 new case of HIV everyday; as compared to one new case per day in 2008; four per day in 2010; nine per day in 2012; and 17 in 2014.

The figures were based on the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) of the Department of Health Epidemiology Center.

As of March, there were 667 new HIV absero-positive individuals.

This was 34 percent higher compared to the same period last year (498), and was the highest number of cases reported since 1984.

Most of the cases (96 percent) were male and the median age was 28 years old.

More than half (56 percent) belong to the 25-34 year age group while 26 percent were youth aged 15-24 years old. The regions with the highest number of reported cases for March were NCR, with 293 (44 percent) cases; Region 4A, with 92 (14 percent) cases; Region 7 with 68 (10 percent) cases and Region 3 with 57 (9 percent) cases.

Some 157 (24 percent) cases came from the rest of the country.

The reported modes of transmission (MOT) of HIV as were sexual contact (630), needle sharing among injecting drug users (IDU) (34), and mother-to-child transmission (3).

Eighty-five percent of the sexually transmitted cases were among males who have sex with males (MSM).

From January 1984 to March this year, MSM (homosexual and bisexual) was the predominant (17,546 or 79 percent) type of sexual transmission among males, followed by male-female sex (3,225 or 15 percent), and sharing of needles (1,084 or 5 percent).

More than half (54 percent (9,417) of cases among MSM belong to the 25-34 year age group while 5,120 (29 percent) were youth 15-24 years old.

Among females, male-female sex was the most common MOT (1,973 or 91 percent) followed by sharing of needles (78 or 4 percent).

A total of 70 children (<10 years old) and 2 adolescents were reported to have acquired HIV through mother-to-child transmission, while 20 people were infected through blood transfusion.

And as of March, there were 9,475 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) presently on anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

From January 1984 to March, there have been 24,376 HIV absero-positive cases reported to the HARP.

Most (22,188 or 91 percent were male in the median age, or 28 years old.

Half (12,326 or 51 percent were from the 25-34-year age group while 6,363 (26 percent) were youth aged 15-24 years old; two percent (19,952) of all the 24,376 diagnosed cases in the Philippines were reported in the past five years, from January 2010 to March 2015.

Most (93 percent) of these cases were still asymptomatic at the time of reporting.

From January 1984 to March 2015, there were a total of 1,167 reported deaths, 972 (83 percent) were male.

In total, there has been 15 (1 percent) reported deaths among children less than 10 years old, 13 (1 percent) reported deaths in adolescents (10-19 years old) and 144 (12 percent) reported deaths among youth (15-24 years old).

The highest number of deaths occurred in the 25-34 years (44 percent) and was followed by the 35-49 years (31 percent) age groups.

Sexual contact (94 percent) was the most common mode of HIV transmission (356 heterosexual, 493 homosexual, 244 bisexual).

There were 20 deaths among IDU.

Currently, the DOH is conducting the National HIV Testing Week by giving free HIV test from May 11-15 in observance of the AIDS Candlelight Memorial on May 17 in order to reduce the incidence of HIV in the country. (PNA) FFC/FGS/OJT/cbd

Sorsogon town farmers get 70 bags of high-breed corn
By Jonalyn Pronce

PILAR, Sorsogon (PNA) -- At least 70 bags of high-breed yellow corn are now available to farmers of this town, Emma Miranda, corn technician, told farmers here on Friday.

Miranda said there are 312.64 hectares being tended to by 391 corn farmers who will benefit from the project.

The project is under the Community Seed Banking, which aims to provide high-breed crops to farmers to help them spend less and produce quality crops.

"Actually we started this May and hopefully we will hit our target project by June. We will give this privilege to all our potential corn farmers so that they will be able to produce corn seedlings for their farm," Miranda said.

She said they are strictly monitoring the land because they want to help the farmers in any way they can. (PNA) LAP/rck/FGS/OJT/cbd

DA reinforces mangrove reforestation in Sorsogon
By Jeseca Macasinag (OJT)

PILAR, Sorsogon, May 15 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture is planning to implement mangrove reforestation in a selected swamp area of this town.

The target location is Barangay Banuyo, about one kilometer from the town proper.

The project involves 8,000 propagules at Php7 each.

"We are trying to cover 500 hectares in the barangay and we have already surveyed the place," said fisheries technician Chito Morris.

Morris said the project will give opportunities to 30 selected fishermen who will join the project and at the same time, earn income.

The project aims to preserve mangroves and balance the ecosystem. It will be carried out by the DA in partnership with the local government unit of Pilar.

The project is targeted to start in July and continue until the end of the year. (PNA) LAP/rck/FGS/OJT/cbd

Government needs to further address PWDs’ concern -- NCDA

LEGAZPI CITY, May 15 (PNA) -- Persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Bicol are complaining of non-implementation of various programs that would give privileges and benefits to PWDs.

Rizalio Sanchez, National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) Information, Education and Communication Division chief, confirmed the sentiments of the PWDs, saying that despite the standing policies laid down by the Magna Carta for PWDs, government agencies are still below par in implementing programs that would improve the lives of PWDs.

Sanchez, in an interview, cited as “weak performers" the Departments of Public Works and Highways, Health, Transportation and Communication, Social Welfare and Development, Trade and local government units (LGUs).

He said these agencies need to further improve their services in giving and protecting the rights and privileges of PWDs in the areas of health, accessibility, political, telecommunication, and social services.

Sanchez said PWDs always complain of discrimination in seeking employment and education scholarships.

He said government agencies need to check establishments and transport carriers if they are giving 20-percent discounts on transportation fare and purchase of medicines and food, similar to the privileges given to senior citizens.

The non-granting of discounts to PWDs are the frequent complaints received by his office, Sanchez said.

Among other complaints are the lack of structural facilities such as building signage, walkways and spaces for PWDs in public utility jeeps, buses, trains and sea vessels.

Citing statistics, Sanchez said that of the country’s 100 million population, 15 percent or 15 million are PWDs.

He said that in Bicol, with a 5.42-million population, using the benchmark of 15 percent, is estimated to have over 800,000 PWDs, including 75,000 in Legazpi City.

Sanchez said the PWD population is significantly increasing due to the increase in number of persons entering the senior citizen age bracket, saying that as a person reaches the age 60, some of them suffer mental, physical or sensory impairment making them PWDs.

Sanchez was a resource person during the forum on “How to Handle PWDs in Tourism Industry” on Thursday at the Oriental Hotel Legazpi hosted by DOT and NCDA. (PNA) lam/rck/FGS/MSA/cbd

NAPC urges Bicol agencies to fast track BUB anti-poverty projects

PILI, Camarines Sur, May 17 (PNA) -- The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) has urged Bicol-based local and national government agencies to fast track implementation of poverty-alleviation projects placed under their responsibilities through the Grassroot Participatory Budget Process (GPBP) scheme.

In a recent meeting with members of the Regional Poverty Reduction Action Team (RPRAT), NAPC Undersecretary Florencia Dorotan said every local government unit (LGU) and national government agency (NGA) involved should fast track the implementation of the GPBP and other anti-poverty projects and ensure that they really benefit the intended beneficiaries.

Apart from RPRAT members, the meeting, which was hosted by the Regional Field Unit (RFU) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based here, was also attended by representatives of civil society organizations, provincial planning and development councils and community mobilization teams involved in the implementation of projects in Bicol identified under the GPBP.

It was presided over by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Regional Director and RPRAT chair Elouisa Pastor, Emily Bordado, DA RFU spokesperson, on Saturday told the Philippines News Agency.

The agenda include the by-agency status report of 2013, 2014 and 2015 GPBP projects as of 1st quarter of 2015; RPRAT empowerment and accountabilities; policy updates and discussions of issues and concerns.

The community mobilization teams were also requested to share their observations and feedback on the implementation of the GPBP projects, according to Bordado.

Formerly known as the Bottom-Up Budgeting, the GPBP being applied by the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III is a somewhat modern approach to planning in the use of government’s financial resources that is different from the usual top-down budgeting where the high-level executives make all the decisions in fund dispensations.

This scheme provides the opportunity for grantees to be involved in setting their own goals and expectations for a given financial period and gives them ownership of the decisions, motivating them to meet budgetary constraints that otherwise might seem unattainable or unrealistic if they were delivered by someone without as much understanding of their day-to-day operations.

The GPBP exercise was started by the Aquino administration in 2012 through the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster and the Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Cluster as an strategy that hopes to empower civil society organizations and citizen’s groups to engage LGUs and NGAs and make them more responsive to people’s needs.

Bicol this year has been allocated by the Department of Budget and Management a total of Php1.7 billion in GPBP funds distributed for release to LGUs and other beneficiaries by 14 line agencies, including DA.

Of this amount, a total of Php312.1 million is intended to further nourish the region’s farming sector, according to DA Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas.

He said Bicol, with its largest farming area compared to all the other 16 regions of the country, is top contributor to the national economic growth in terms of agricultural productivity and with this additional fund, the DA is able to finance more farm development projects identified by LGUs, he said.

A total of 108 projects proposed by some LGUs in the six provinces of the region which qualified to the GPBP for having Public Financial Management Implementation Plan and being awardees of the Seal of Good Financial Housekeeping given by the DBM are funded by this allocation, Bragas said.

These projects are distributed among seven LGUs in Albay, accounting for a total of 16 projects; Camarines Norte, 20 projects for 11 LGUs; Camarines Sur, 30 projects of 13 LGUs; Catanduanes, seven projects of four LGUs; Masbate, 17 projects in six LGUs and; Sorsogon, 18 projects in nine LGUs.

These projects are composed mainly of agricultural productivity support infrastructures like farm-to- market roads, community irrigation systems and post-harvest facilities that are necessary to make farming, harvesting, storage and marketing of farm products easier for more income of farmers, Bragas said.

He clarified that all GPBP-funded LGU projects are focused either on the production of corn, rice and other high-value crops and livestock based on organic agriculture system.

Last year, 465 similar projects have been identified for funding, also under the GPBP of DA, and checks representing these have been recently turned over to beneficiary LGUs.

Of this number of projects, Bragas said, Albay got 55; Camarines Norte, 50; Camarines sur, 120; Catanduanes, 41; Masbate, 100 and; Sorsogon, 99.

Other line agencies given GPBP funds for release to LGUs and other project implementing arms are the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Education, Interior and Local Government, Energy, Health, Labor and Employment, Transportation, Social Welfare and Development and Trade and Industry.

The Local Government Support Fund of the DILG, National Electrification Administration, National Irrigation Administration and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority also have their own separate shares of GBBP funds at their disposal.

Bordado said Dorotan made the push for more expeditious project implementations over reports of slow-paced accomplishments.

The Empowerment of the Poor Program developed by the NAPC in cooperation with the DILG complements the GPBP initiative by strengthening civil society organizations capacity to engage with the LGUs in this exercise.

Dorotan also reminded everyone in the meeting on the “no epal” policy covering anti-poverty projects of the government, saying that contents of tarpaulin to be set up in project sites should not include names of mayors and other government officials.(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

DA produces 250 new skilled vegetable farmers in CamNorte
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, May 17 (PNA) -- A new batch of vegetable farmers in the province of Camarines Norte is now in the field heading towards a more productive life through modern farming practices learned from a rigid training course given by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The training course is called the Farmers Field School (FFS) on vegetable production from where 254 farmers from 10 of the 12 municipalities of the province recently graduated.

It was a 16-week hands-on learning process given by experts from the DA’s Agricultural Training Institute-Bicol wherein participants were made to undergo training and technology demonstrations that develop good farming practice options.

FFS, which focuses on technology transfer through a combination of lectures and actual field demonstrations on what have been previously discussed in the classroom, is where farmers are given a chance to have new field experiences.

It is a group-based learning process where the participants are given on-hand learning activities that grant them awareness on a variety of environmental-friendly farming innovations.

The training program also equips farmers with the technology as a measure to further increase local production as it includes pests and diseases prevention, fertilizer and water management that would contribute immensely to a more efficient and improved plant growth to attain high yield.

Dr. Elena delos Santos, the DA Bicol Regional Technical Director for Operations and Extension, on Saturday here said the graduation last week from the FFS of this new batch of farmers was held at the Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (APTC) in Vinzons, Camarines Norte.

It was highlighted by a “Harvest Festival” that featured various vegetables produced in demonstration farms set up at the APTC complex by the Philippine Seed Industry Association, a group of companies engaged in the supply of seeds, according to Delos Santos.

The festival and the FFS, she explained, are extension strategies to promote new technologies and good agricultural practices.

“In the same twin activities, we exhorted the farmers to continue supporting the APTC by making use of the facility as the trading point of their produce,” De los Santos said.

The APTC, co-owned by the government and the private sector represented by farmers and fishermen and located in Barangay Sto. Domingo, Vinzons town, was opened last year to serve as an alternative marketing system and business model where small farmers and fisher folk sell their products directly to consumers at reasonable wholesale prices.

Sitting within a 5.6 - hectare lot owned by the provincial government of Camarines Norte, the facilities comprising the APTC are a 675-square-meter building housing a food storage, cold storage, an office and a trading floor as well as another building with a farmers’ lounge, canteen, power house and a guard house.

The complex also has a wide parking area for both small and large-type vehicles used in the transport of products from the farm and for distribution to other markets in the region and other parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila.

The project, established for a total cost of Php44.2 million, was jointly initiated by the DA Regional Field Unit (RFU) and the provincial government of Camarines Norte, with the former shouldering 79 percent or Php34.86 million of the amount and the latter, 21 percent or Php9.38 million.

It now benefits at least 10,000 farmers who are tilling almost 33,198 farms, covering approximately 15,000 hectares of productive agricultural lands in the province and around 8,000 local fishermen making use of San Miguel Bay and Pacific Ocean as fishing grounds, De los Santos said.

As a positive impact of the facility, she said, it lessens the trading layers and participation of intermediaries, resulting in higher farm gate and market price as transport and hauling subsidy of at least five percent is enjoyed by farmers owing to the provision of trucking facility in the collection and distribution of farm produce.

The APTC was conceptualized by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala as among the Aquino administration’s strategic intervention to effectively address long-standing agricultural and food concerns such as unfavorable prices usually received by small farmers, livestock and poultry raisers and fisher folk for their marketable quantities.

It also addresses radical fluctuation of farm gate prices that discourages farmers and growers to invest for a sustained growth; lack of employment and income opportunities in the rural areas; high prices of agricultural and fishery products paid by legitimate food processors, market vendors, and the end-consumers most especially; and unnecessary losses due to inefficient post-harvest handling.

De los Santos said these new FFS graduates will form part of the farmers’ groups organized by the DA and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) which provide the APTC with continuous supply of vegetables to sustain its operations.(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

DepEd-Bicol to kick off Brigada Eskwela with caravan through Sorsogon
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 17 (PNA) -- A caravan to take off from this city and drive through Sorsogon province will kick off on Monday the Department of Education’s yearly Brigada Eskwela or the National Schools Maintenance Week in Bicol.

Ramon Fiel Abcede, the DepEd regional director, said on Saturday the caravan will be participated in, among others, by regional and national education officials, public school teachers and local government officials in a show of concern to the upkeep of public school facilities.

The theme for this year’s Brigada Eskwela is “Tayo para sa Kalinisan, Kaligtasan at Kahandaan ng Ating mga Paaralan,” which is geared towards making schools disaster-prepared, ecologically conscious, clean and conducive to learning.

From the DepEd regional office complex in Barangay Rawis here, Abcede said the caravan with regional and central personnel and officials on board will head for Pilar II Central School in Barangay Putiao, Pilar, Sorsogon, the host of this year’s kick-off ceremonies.

This school has been chosen as host for being a showcase institution for a successful stakeholder partnership with an international non-government organization (NGO) -- particularly the Intervida Philippines Foundation now under the EduCo International Group, which will be given recognition during the event.

Intervida is an international development NGO that worked towards improving the human development of disadvantaged communities, especially the children in Bicol, through active participation, community empowerment and advocacy to achieve social change.

The holistic approach of Intervida is carried out through the implementation of programs in health and nutrition, education, food security, economic development, environment and disaster Management, and community participation.

Apart from EduCo, other stakeholders and sponsors will be given recognition during the kick-off rites to be graced by DepEd Central Office officials such as Zeny Lastimoza and Ronald Asis of the Adopt-A-School Program (ASP) and Education Support Services Division (ESSD), respectively.

On the next day, the caravan, joined by delegations from Pilar and Donsol towns, will head deeper into the province with delegations from the next town of Castilla joining from the Cumadcad National High School as it heads for the DepEd Sorsogon Division Office (DO) in Sorsogon City where more key officials are expected to join.

Delegations from the towns of Magallanes, Juban and Casiguran will converge at Barangay Abuyog in Sorsogon City to merge with the convoy from the DO in proceeding to the second district of the province where it will be joined by participants from the municipalities of Prieto Diaz and Gubat.

The convoy will pass through Barcelona with the town’s delegation merging as it heads for the Central School in Bulusan where a brief stopover is set for the ceremonial painting of the school’s concrete perimeter fence.

The next route will be through the 10-kilometer winding concrete road passing along the thickly vegetated area covered by the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park leading to the Bulusan Lake Ecology Park where delegations in motorcades from Irosin, Matnog, Sta. Magdalena and Bulan towns are to merge with the main caravan.

From there, it will travel another 10 kilometers to the Irosin town that sits at the foot of the active Mt. Bulusan.

The volcano was placed by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) under alert level No. 1 early this week following two mild eruptions last May 1 and 6.

The caravan, with the converging motorcades from all of the province’s 14 towns and one city in tow, will end at the Irosin Central School where the provincial kick-off ceremonies of the Brigada Eskwela will take place.

The motorcades themed "Convergence Down the Road for Brigada Eskwela 2015" is organized by the DepEd Sorsogon DO headed by schools division superintendent Danilo Despi.

"We expect not only all DepEd employees in the region to join this year’s Brigada Eskwela activities but also other sectors like local communities, concerned government and non-government agencies and private entities by offering special skills, sharing their time or by providing their in-kind support to public schools near their residence," Abcede said.

This schools maintenance activity, which is an exercise of the spirit of volunteerism and has become a week-long tradition, engages all education stakeholders to contribute their time, effort, and resources in ensuring that all public schools are ready in time for the schools’ opening every month of June, he explained.

The school year 2015-2016 will officially start on June 1 and end on April 1, 2016 for public schools based on Department Order 9, s. 2015 earlier issued by Education Secretary Armin Luistro which directs the heads of public and private elementary and secondary institutions nationwide to follow the school calendar. (PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

PRO-5 tops arrest warrant servicing in 2015 Q1

CAMP GENERAL SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, May 17 (PNA) -- Out of the 17 police regional offices nationwide, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 5 topped in the serving of warrants of arrest with a total of 1,160 received from courts.

Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, PRO-5 director, said the serving of warrants of arrest (WOA) is part of the intensified implementation of the PNP P.A.T.R.O.L. Plan 2030 and in compliance with the PRO5 CMC No. 2014-02 “Target Output Policy.”

Of the total arrest warrants served by the PRO-5, 795 were old WOA; 960 served with arrest for the period; and 200 served without arrest for the period.

The PRO-5 has a total efficiency of 83 percent, ranking first among 17 PROs nationwide.

Second was PRO-6, with 69 percent efficiency; followed by PRO-1 with 60 percent efficiency; fourth, COR with 49 percent efficiency, and PRO-7, ranking fifth with 43 percent efficiency.

"The LOI 'Manhunt Charlie' mandates the police offices to account for wanted persons, because if wanted persons are duly accounted for, the number of criminals who roam the streets ready to pounce on unwitting and defenseless members of the peaceful communities will be reduced," Deona said.

Once wanted persons are arrested, he added, the courts eventually acquire jurisdiction over them, paving the way for the trial to proceed, thus, fast-tracking the processes in the Criminal Justice System.

The LOI “Manhunt Charlie” has for its objectives to maintain and update the list of wanted persons from the regional, district or provincial, city and municipal office levels; to come up with a list of the 10 most wanted persons in these levels; to account for wanted persons in the city/district or provincial levels; to establish an e-database on wanted persons that could be easily accessed by all police units nationwide; to fast track the processes in the Criminal Justice System to serve the ends of justice; to determine the areas with high fugitive activity and to unite and support the efforts of all law enforcement units, agencies and the community in the relentless drive against wanted persons.

With the combined implementation of the LOI “Manhunt Charlie” and PRO-5 CMC No. 2014-02 “Target Output Policy,” a trade mark project of Deona, the chief of police of every municipal police station is given a target to arrest at least one city or municipal most wanted person (MWP) for one month; one provincial MWP for two months and one regional WP target for three months.

The police also aims to neutralize or arrest at least five percent of the total number of wanted persons in their respective areas of responsibility based on the warrants of arrest (WOA) not served in CY 2013 and the newly received WOA in January 2014 onwards.

The PRO-5, being ranked No. 1, is also aided with the latest e-systems the Philippine National Police has, which are the Crime Incidents Recording System (CIRS) e-Blotter System; the E-rouge gallery and the E-warrants system.

"Pushing through the transformations of the PNP through the Performance Governance System, the community that we are serving can look forward to a safer place to live, work and do business by year 2030," Deona said. (PNA) SCS/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

No. 6 municipal most wanted person in Bulusan arrested in Makati

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, May 17 (PNA) -- Joint operatives of the Makati City Police Office and the Bulusan Municipal Police Office arrested a 19-year-old No. 6 municipal most wanted person in Bulusan, Sorsogon, on Saturday evening in Barangay Poblacion, Makati City.

A police report identified the suspect as Jonathan G. Ruadiel, single, tricycle driver, a resident of Teodoro Apartment, Blumentritt St., Barangay Hulo, Mandaluyong City, and a native of Bulusan, Sorsogon.

The police collared Ruadiel at about 6:15 p.m. while he was waiting for passengers at the parking area for tricycles.

They were armed with a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Bernardo R. Jimenez Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 54 in Gubat, Sorsogon, for rape or violation of R.A. 7610 docketed under C.C. No. 3225 dated Dec. 3, 2014 and without bail for his temporary liberty.

Ruadiel became wanted when he evaded the law after raping a minor.

The Bulusan MPO, however, got a tip that he was seen in Makati City, prompting town police to set up an operation in coordination with the Makati City police.

He will be transferred to Bulusan anytime Sunday to face the court. (PNA) SCS/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

Sorsogon village to build 3-classroom building for elementary school
By Jeseca Macasinag (OJT)

PILAR, Sorsogon, May 17 (PNA) -- Barangay officials in San Antonio (Sapa) are now getting ready for the construction of one unit building with three classrooms for an elementary school.

The project has Php3.2 million budget from the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and is expected to be finished in four months, Barangay Secretary Rene Llamido said in an interview.

"We informed the community when we proposed this project because we wanted them to know the benefits to our barangay, especially to the students," he said.

The barangay experiences high sea level that affects their place during typhoon and the school suffers most.

"We are planning to have purok-by-purok volunteer workers who will help us meet our goal project and to help them earn additional income," Llamido said.

The community facilitators are in charge of the rotation of the workers.

The project is supposed to be completed this September. (PNA) CTB/FGS/JM/CBD/SSC

DENR-Bicol seeks expansion of Catanduanes natural park
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, May 17 (PNA) -- What could be the smallest now in terms of land area as a province may turn out to be the biggest protected area in the entire region as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is seeking to expand the Catanduanes Watershed Forest Reserve (CWFR) from 26,000 hectares (ha) to 48,831 ha.

The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority and the DENR V Land Evaluation party found in their recent field validation that the CWFR is suitable for proclamation under the National Integrated Protected Areas System owing to its old-growth forest consisting mostly of dipterocarp or hardwood species.

It also covers the 10 municipalities of Bagamanoc, Baras, Caramoran, Gigmoto, Pandan, Panganiban, San Andres, San Miguel, Viga, and Virac.

The CWFR has potable water that supports domestic and agricultural uses and could supply sufficient water for energy generation.

It also harbors important plant and animal species in habitats fit for recreation and adventure.

While the area offers opportunities for growth, however, it is also beset with challenges such as timber poaching, slash-and-burn farming, changing land use, siltation, and wildlife poaching, among others.

“These are the same reasons why the government sets aside areas for protection to secure resources required by present and future generations of humans,” DENR-Bicol Regional Director Gilbert Gonzales said in a statement sent to the Philippines News Agency Sunday.

To expand the reserve would mean greater protection for it and the wildlife plant and animal species present in the area, he added.

It will also promote reproduction among endangered animal species since their range or areas frequented becomes larger, making possible reproduction, larger area to hunt for food and improve the natural ecosystems functioning since these processes recognize no political boundaries.

“As bigger areas get protection from poachers, for instance, the adjacent towns are expected to afford the area the same level of protection. hence, the various species have greater chances for survival against natural calamities and human intrusion," Gonzales said.

The CWFR is a protected area by virtue of Proclamation No. 123 dated June 23, 1987.

Penalties apply to those who commit prohibited acts including hunting, destroying, disturbing or mere possession of any plants or animals or products derived therefrom without permit from the management board. (PNA) CTB/FGS/CBD/SSC

DENR-Bicol ready to implement approved Bicol river basin development plan
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, May 17 (PNA) –- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is now ready to implement the Integrated Bicol River Basin Management and Development Master Plan after it was formally approved by the Regional Development Council for Bicol, a top DENR-Bicol official said.

DENR-Bicol Regional Director Gilbert C. Gonzales, also the Bicol River Basin Management Council chair, said the master plan also has the concurrence of the stakeholders and institutions pushing for development of the Bicol River Basin (BRB) composed of farmers groups, Agta indigenous people, water districts, concerned government agencies, non-government organizations, local government units and private enterprises present during the RDC meeting on March 6.

For its implementation, Gonzales said, the plan has been divided into three components with the following objectives: first, to prepare the ecosystem and the community to the impact of climate change, including forest protection and mangrove rehabilitation; second, to attract investment in production areas through the construction of new irrigation systems, sanitary landfill and other facilities; and third, strengthening the management of the BRB like the formation of Sub-Basin Management Council, information and education campaign, capability enhancement, training and others.

The implementation of the Bicol river Basin Management and Development Master Plan has a budget of Php31 million.

The DENR and various national government agencies will share in fund allocation during the plan’s 15 years of implementation.

Gonzales said that in 2012, the Bicol River Basin Program Coordinating Office was established through a special order to give technical and administrative support to the BRBMC under the RDC and its technical working group based on EO 816-2009 and EO 510-2006 that created a River Basin Control Office under the DENR.

The Bicol River Basin is the eighth biggest in the entire country with a total area of 317,103 hectares that covers the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarine Norte.

It faces challenges from flooding that affects agricultural and settlement areas, loss of forest cover inside the BRB, being within the typhoon belt and so strong typhoons pass by every year, poor fish production due to illegal fishing, conversion of mangrove areas, pollution and other threats. (PNA) CTB/FGS/CBD/SSC

Gov Salceda asked to share disaster management expertise in Vietnam
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, May 18 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, United Nations senior champion for disaster risk reduction management for local government units, has been invited by the CSR Asia and the Prudence Foundation to speak during the upcoming annual Disaster Preparedness Forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, in July to share his knowledge on disaster preparedness.

The forum is an annual event hosted by the CSR Asia and sponsored by the Prudence Foundation.

The event is expected to draw the attendance of more than 150 participants and be widely covered by the media, based on the success of the previous year’s forum.

In a letter sent by CSR Asia chairman Richard Welford to Salceda, he requested the Albay governor to impart his disaster management expertise in Vietnam in the Third Annual Disaster Preparedness Forum.

This year’s forum, entitled “Creating Values through Strategic Partnerships,” will focus on bringing together key leaders in business, humanitarian and government sectors across the Asia-Pacific Region to help advance and form strategic partnerships for community disaster preparedness, Welford said.

Salceda will be participating in the panel that will deal on “The Evolving Role of Business in Community Disaster Preparedness and the Need for Strategic Partnership.”

The Third Annual Disaster Preparedness Forum seeks to coordinate efforts among various sectors to significantly reduce post-disaster recovery spending, damages and losses.

The significant social and economic costs of recent disasters in Thailand, Japan and the Philippines highlight the need to invest in disaster preparedness for more effective response and recovery, Welford said.

Participants in the forum are expected to learn about opportunities for businesses to address disaster-related community needs through partnerships that leverage each sector’s unique competencies and create value for all involved.

“Both our organizations are committed to strengthening the role the business sector can play in helping communities build capacities for disaster preparedness, response and recovery,” Welford said.

Salceda will also present in the session a paper entitled “Creating an Enabling Environment for Strategic Business Engagement.”

Among the other expected panelists are Oliver Lacey-Hall, UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs regional director for Asia and the Pacific; Augustine Anthuvan, Channel News Asia editor; Nick Finney, Save the Children regional director of Asia; and Mark Fancy, Prudence Foundation executive director.

Fancy said the forum would be an excellent platform to foster public-private dialogue and showcase the important work undertaken by the province of Albay.

Welford and Fancy further said they sincerely hope Salceda will accept their invitation to speak about his approach and experience with engaging the business sector in the area of disaster preparedness. (PNA) FFC/FGS/RBB/CBD/EBP

DENR-Bicol focuses on poverty alleviation aside from environment protection
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, May 18 (PNA)-- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is now focusing on poverty alleviation aside from environment protection because it believes that poverty is the biggest threat to the environment, the top Bicol regional official of the agency said.

DENR Bicol Regional Director Gilbert C. Gonzales said Monday that his agency is ensuring the success of this task through the National Greening Program (NGP), DENR’s banner program.

More than 300,000 workers, Gonzales said, have already benefited from the NGP which has already planted seedlings in more than one million in hectares of land in the entire country during its four years of implementation.

The DENR has also distributed more than 1,000 public land titles to poor families in Camarines Sur in four years under the theme “Magtulungan sa Pangangalaga ng Kalikasan upang Kahirapan ay Maibsan.”

The DENR is part of the Human Development and Poverty-Reduction Cluster (HDPRC) headed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development as lead agency.

Other members of the cluster are the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Education and other agencies pushing for the Accelerated Sustainable Anti-Poverty Program (ASAPP), a new scheme of the government to address poverty in the country.

The ASAPP was formally launched in the Province of Camarines Sur recently, the province being considered as one with the highest number of poor families in the entire Philippines.

Other provinces that will be benefited by the ASAPP, aside from Camarines Sur, are Pangasinan, Quezon, Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Cebu, Leyte and Zamboanga del Sur.

The benefits will be in the fields of universal health care, conditional cash transfer, sustainable livelihood and others.

The HDPRC aims to reduce poverty through the implementation of economic projects through the participation of the private sector and local government units. (PNA) FPV/FGS/CBD/EBP

PWDs now assured of better treatment from tourism frontliners
By Ana Marie Abril (OJT)

LEGAZPI CITY, May 18 (PNA) -- Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are now assured of better treatment by frontliners in the tourism or business sector after representatives of this sector underwent training on how to deal with and handle customers with disabilities.

The frontliners include the front desk officers or personnel in hotels and restaurants and similar establishments, transport operators and other public conveyance utilities and tour guides.

The National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Friday held a \"Seminar on How to Handle Person with Disability in the Tourism Industry\" at the Oriental Hotel, Taysan Hill, Sto. Nino Village here.

The seminar tackled about the rights of a PWD based on Republic Act No. 7277 (Magna Carta For Person With Disability) and The Batas Pambansa 344 (Accessibility Law) and its implementing Rules and Regulations.

Republic Act No. 7277 is an act providing for rehabilitation, self-development and self-reliance of PWDs and their integration into the mainstream of society and for other purposes.

NCDA acting executive director Carmen R. Zubiaga said the seminar aimed to teach these tourism and business industry front-liners enough knowledge and information about the rights of PWDs and how other concerned agencies approach them. (PNA) FPV/FGS/AMB/CBD/EBP

Friday, May 15, 2015

Camarines Sur perfectly blends adventure, history
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, May 13 (PNA) -- What comes in mind when one mentions Camarines Sur is wakeboarding in Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC), or Caramoan, with its exotic white beaches and islands -- Survivor style.

And that’s Camarines Sur since it has become a sought-after destination of local and international tourists starting 2006 with the successful promotion of the watersports facility and the exotic islands of Caramoan town, which became a favorite location of television reality show “Survivor.”

But there’s more in Camarines Sur other than adventure sports, white beaches and exotic islands -- the historical significance of places like Naga City and the Partido District where ruins and Spanish period structures still exist today.

With 35 towns, one component city and one chartered city, Camarines Sur is the largest Bicol province with a land area of about 526,682 ha, or 30 percent of the region’s total.

The province remains on the top of the registry of tourist arrivals in Bicol in 2014 with 1,861,010 local and foreign tourists.

The 2014 tourist arrivals have grown 20.25 percent from 2013 record of 1,547,678 tourist arrivals, according to the recent data from the Department of Tourism (DOT).

It’s fringes are generally mountainous on eastern and western seaboards and the lowlands comprise the Bicol River Basin, the drainage of the Bicol peninsula, in the middle of the province that crosses the cities of Iriga and Naga and 8 towns of Camarines towards San Miguel Bay.

Mount Isarog, a national park with numerous endemic species of flora and fauna, is the highest peak in the province at 1,996 meters.

And it camouflages numerous waterfalls and hot springs in its 10,112-ha area that can be reached by trekking in groups organized by outdoor clubs and the provincial government.

On the estuary and mudflats in the northeast of the province at the edge of the Bicol River Basin lies the migratory feed’s stop where 34 species of migratory birds have been spotted so far in the months of October to March.

Flying in groups to escape the cold and freezing months in temperate regions, migratory birds visit every year the 232-ha Cabusao Wetland with hundreds of flocks enjoy frenzy feeding on mudflats in the peak months of December to January before continuing their journey to the south.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the municipal government of Cabusao have constructed access road going inside the wetland and elevated wooden planks underneath mangroves leading to a birds’ hideout where bird watchers can observe the flock of birds.

“Camsur Adventure”, a guide book published by the provincial government of Camarines Sur, promotes new guided activities for the more adventurous and athletic tourists.

Going beyond the lure of CWC and Caramoan, the provincial government of Camarines Sur offers new packages for adventure including spelunking, hiking, motorbike cruising, mountain climbing, rock climbing, rappelling, river tubing and bird watching.

The Camarines Sur Provincial Tourism Office has introduced in the present package of Caramoan tours new sports and activities, aside from island-hopping and beach-combing.

While on island hopping, visitors have the option to try adventure sports. Cliff-jumping spots identified so far are the 17-ft Lagpitaw Cliff and the 54-ft Cagliog Cliff.

For rock climbing, one have a thrill in Gota Village.

Caramoan also offers spelunking at the cathedral dome of Omang Cave which can be reached from Gota Village by river tubing, bamboo rafting, or stand-up paddleboarding over Sohotan River.

But there are neat options other than adventure and extreme sports for visitors in Camarines Sur to enjoy a unique experience other than wakeboarding and island-hopping in this province.

For the reserved, culturally-inclined and non-athletic visitors, Naga City, the socio-cultural center of Bicol since the Spanish era, is a perfect place to stay and leisurely wander for a day or two.

The city, the socio-cultural center of Bicol since the Spanish era, was established in 1575 after Ferdinand Magellan came to the Philippine Islands 54 years earlier in 1521.

It is named Ciudad de Caceres by the order of Spanish Governor General Francisco de Sande -- the third Spanish royal city he named and declared, after Cebu and Manila.

One of the oldest girls school (escuelas de niñas) established by a Nov. 5, 1867 Royal Decree of Queen Isabela which the Daughters of Charity runs and owns is the Universidad de Sta. Isabel (USI), formerly Colegio de Sta. Isabel.

It opened on April 12, 1868 and after seven years on Sept. 18, 1875, it was upgraded to normal school for women and renamed “Escuela Normal de Maestras.” It is said to be the oldest normal school for women in the Philippines and the Southeast Asia.

Across the street where the USI campus was established more than a century ago, lies another period building preserved for more than a century inside the compound of Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.

Built during the Episcopal reign of Bishop Francisco Gainza, O.P., 1862-1879, of diocese here, the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary stands out with its Moorish-like architecture in its façade of red bricks and series of arches.

Bicol luminaries in the 19 th and 20 th century were schooled in this seminary that started as Casa Clerigos (House of Priests) in 1793.

Then it was made into a seminary in 1840, and transformed it into seminary-college in 1865.

The college was abolished in 1925 but the minor seminary education was retained by Bishop Francisco Reyes and was renamed Seminario del Santissimo Rosario.

On June 11, 1978, the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary building was declared a “National Historical Landmark” by the National Historical Institute.

Inside the Moorish-like building the alley looks cavernous where the shadows of more arches lead to a courtyard facing two small museums — one with Bicol artifacts and the other one, a variety of collections from the Ming Dynasty of vases to dinosaur’s fossil eggs; and the other one, a collection of Spanish period retablo pieces made of silver, religious statues, vests and vessels.

From Naga City, one can go to the Partido District, 54 km going northeast to the town of San Jose where the remnants of Spanish-era structures still stand today that remind of a progressive past in the coastal village of Sabang.

Spanish-era Moro watchtower, which according to resident Abraham Hilario, 63, has inscription written in the year 1834, stands as sentinel beside the road.

Hilario said he was told by his elders that the watchtower was used by inhabitants to watch out for Moro marauders coming from the sea so that everyone will be alerted.

On the other side of the road, the remnants of two old buildings which, he said, belonged to Smith Bell and Co., a hemp trading company, had been in operation since the turn of the 20th century to the 1960s.

San Jose Mayor Antonio Chavez said Barangay Sabang has high historical value that it needs protection. (PNA) RMA/FGS/JME/CBD/EDS

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Country’s longest boulevard rising in Camarines Norte
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 14 (PNA) – The country’s longest boulevard, hyped as another exciting man-made tourist attraction in Bicol, is more than halfway to completion.

Named President Corazon C. Aquino Boulevard through an ordinance passed by the provincial legislative board of Camarines Norte about two years ago, the beachfront road structure now undergoing construction covers 8.7 kilometers extending through the seaside borders of the province’s three towns — Daet, Mercedes and Talisay.

It covers the area declared as a tourism destination by the Department of Tourism (DOT), as it is situated along the fine, white sand Bagasbas Beach in the capital town of Daet with a wide boardwalk cast from red semi-adobe bricks intended for tourists view deck.

Bagasbas Beach itself is an ecotourism site which has been accredited by the DOT as a surfing spot that since five years ago has been a venue of several international surfing and kiteboarding competitions.

This point also leads to Calaguas in the nearby town of Vinzons, the number one island destination in the province for its enchanting group of islands which is considered an unknown paradise that can rival the beaches of Boracay and the serenity of Pagudpud.

Owning the reputation of a virgin island as development is yet to be introduced, Calaguas is gifted with a long stretch of white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters and unspoiled natural resources where tourists are raring to visit and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the place being kissed by the waves of the Philippine Sea.

When completed, the boulevard will also open a more panoramic access to the town of Mercedes, dubbed as the “Fish Bowl” of Bicol.

Melvin Navarro, the regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways for Bicol based here, on Thursday said the construction and improvement of the boulevard is under the DOT-DPWH Convergence Program for Enhancing Tourism Access.

This program, he explained, covers the establishment of a mutual cooperation in jointly undertaking the identification, evaluation, prioritization and implementation of infrastructures in declared tourism destinations.

Navarro said the ongoing works, which were started over a year ago under five contracts, are being undertaken by DPWH regional office and include the rehabilitation, improvement and construction of the San Jose Section in the municipality of Talisay, the Bagasbas Section in Daet, the Mercedes-Bagasbas Road, and the construction of two bridges.

As of this week, he said, the project has accomplished 58 percent of the programmed works, completing 5.017 kilometers out of the 8.657-kilometer boulevard with the remaining sections proposed for future funding in the amount of Php265 million to include the construction of the two bridges.

“At 8.7 kilometers, it will be the longest boulevard in the country—longer than the 7.6-kilometer Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Today, the longest seaside road outside Metro Manila is the tourist-favorite Legazpi Boulevard that stretches more than four kilometers, traversing three barangays along the Albay Gulf from the commercial district here,” Navarro said.

As a support structure to the province’s tourism industry, DOT Bicol Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla said the impending completion of the President Corazon C. Aquino Boulevard will also be highlighted by the rehabilitation and eventual reopening of the long-been mothballed operations of Bagasbas Airport.

The airport rehabilitation is a Php100-million project covering the expansion of the existing runway, construction of perimeter fence, lighting installation and putting up of a modern control tower equipped with air navigation and radar systems.

The Regional Development Council (RDC) earlier included in its 2011-2016 Public Investment Program (PIP) for Bicol the rehabilitation plan with a total amount of Php77 million divided into four installments of release—Php40 million in 2013, Php24 million in 2014, Php5 million in 2015 and Php8 million in 2016.

Serving once as Camarines Norte’s only aviation facility, the airport, located along the world-famous Bagasbas Beach, is classified by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines as a minor commercial domestic airport that is presently non-operational.

Camarines Norte needs this airport to be operational so that it is able to cheer up further the province’s tourism industry, Ravanilla said.

Once upgraded, the airport that for now could only accommodate Fokker or light planes would be able to serve bigger aircraft and respond to the needs of the growing number of tourists who want to experience the wonders that the province offers, she said.

Its operations would also open the doors for more investments in the mineral-rich province that is noted for its gold mines.

It will benefit not only big tourism investors such as hotel and resort owners and operators but also the people in the countryside where most of tourist destinations are located by providing more opportunities for employment and business ventures, she said.

Other services and small-scale businesses such as transport, souvenir shops, handicrafts and the like would be created as tourism activities intensify in an area, while large-scale tourism stakeholders are needed to expand to include employment for common people such as housekeeping and food services.

The province also boasts of its queen Formosa pineapple, the sweetest in the world that is now being processed and exported by some local manufacturers.

Daet town, the provincial capital and the province’s center of trade and commerce, was last year adjudged by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) as among the country’s most competitive municipalities. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

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Village secretary critical in shooting

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, May 14 (PNA) -- A village secretary is now in critical condition in a hospital after she was shot by unidentified suspect while she was watching television Wednesday night at Barangay Binanuanan Grande, Calabanga, Camarines Sur.

Rushed to the Bicol Medical Center was Rebecca Flores, 62, widow and resident of the place.

Flores was watching her favorite television program inside her house when the suspect peeped at the window, shot her and got lost in the darkness.

Her relatives rushed her to the hospital for immediate treatment.

Authorities are now investigating the case.(PNA) RMA/FGS/EMC/CBD

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Legazpi wants tourists informed of city’s smoking ban before arrival
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 14 (PNA) –- Let it be known by incoming tourists and visitors that they are entering a “tobacco-free” city.

To this effect, the city government has requested management of all public carriers -- airlines, buses and sea vessels -- to inform their passengers before departure from their points of origin or before arrival here of the cigarette-smoking ban imposed in public places and conveyances within the locality.

This move is covered by a resolution recently adopted by the city legislative council and approved for execution by City Mayor Noel Rosal.

Resolution 0073-2015, authored by City Councilor Raul Rosal, requests that all incoming commercial flights, passenger ships and bus trips cooperate in promoting the city as a “smoke-free” territory.

It could be done by way of announcements in short recorded media at the pre-departure area in points of origin, on board or at the arrival area of the airport, bus terminal and seaport here of the anti-smoking policy.

“To further the unrelenting efforts of the local government in making the city a healthful place to visit, stay and live in, it is necessary for all public transportation means to inform their passengers, especially tourists and visitors, that we are serious in our anti-smoking campaign,” Councilor Rosal told the Philippine News Agency Thursday.

He said the city is a three-time Red Orchid Awards recipient, a prestigious award given by the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for the local government’s serious efforts and effective implementation of its Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance.

The campaign for tobacco-free communities by the city government was started in 2009 with the strict enforcement of its Smoke-Free Ordinance enacted in 2009 that prohibits smoking in all public places of the city -- including government offices, public conveyances, malls and parks.

For this, the city government has won the DOH’s Red Orchid Award in a row of three years, the latest of which was in 2012, making it a Hall of Famer in the health agency’s recognition of LGUs’ successful implementations of anti-smoking programs in their localities.

This city has also adopted the Blue Ribbon Campaign of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the ridding communities of cigarette smoke.

Themed “Saving Lives from Second-Hand Smoke,” the campaign focuses on raising awareness on the dangers of second-hand smoke, especially among children.

Signages, including giant billboards bearing graphic presentations on the ill-effects of cigarette smoking, have been all around conspicuous places of the city to inform the public of the campaign that when ignored may cause violators some troubles.

Violators caught by deputized enforcers are fined Php500 for the first offense; Php1,000 for the second and; Php1,500 for the third and subsequent offenses.

Those who do not have money for the fine are required to render community services like street sweeping and cleaning of the surroundings.

“The penalties may be harsh and inasmuch as we do not want to deprive smokers of their right to plague themselves with the life-threatening consequences of the vice, we are not totally banning smoking here in our city,” according to Mayor Rosal.

Tobacco-hooked cancer-risk takers may still smoke to their hearts content while here but not before public eyes, of course, but in isolated places around the city designated as smoking areas, the mayor said.

“We mean business in this anti-smoking drive not only that we are recognized nationwide as one of the few local government units fostering a 100-percent tobacco-free environment, but because we are firm in our commitment towards public health for the sake of our people and of the thousands who come around either as tourists, shoppers, businessmen, dignitaries, students or even passers-by,” he said.

The city is one of the leading tourist destinations in the country, the Government Center for Bicol, the region’s center of education, health services, trade and commerce, public transportation and now emerging as a favorite venue for national and international conventions and conferences.

It is also officially recognized as one of the three most livable cities in the country today after winning late last year the second place in the Livable City Challenge, sponsored by the United States Assistance for International Development and organized by the National Competitive Commission, among other partner institutions.

“We cannot compromise the good standing the city has developed over years, that is why we are all-out towards achieving for the city a true tobacco-free environment,” Mayor Rosal stressed.

Besides, he said, the city is promoting healthy lifestyle as tobacco smoking kills at least 10 Filipinos every hour and threatens one-third of the Philippine population that are at risk of dying from debilitating diseases due to tobacco use.

Cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases are considered as the top four tobacco-related diseases.

Transportation companies are also enjoined to cooperate in the campaign by heeding the request of informing their incoming passengers of the no-smoking policy, while on the part of tourists and visitors, “we hope they also cooperate, otherwise they will be fined when caught violating the ordinance,” the Legazpi chief executive added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

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Albay posts highest collection of business tax among Bicol provinces
By Nancy Ibo Meciavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, May 14 (PNA) -- The Province of Albay once again proved its excellence in various fields of endeavor after it ranked first in the collection of business tax among the six provinces of the Bicol Region.

It received the awards for best treasurer and assessor in the entire region from the Bureau of Local Government Finance.

Based on the letter of BLGF Bicol officer-in-charge Florencio Dino to Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, the province was able to collect Php175.8 million compared to the Php136-million target.

Albay posted a 129-percent collection efficiency last year, clinching the number one spot on this aspect of governance in the entire region.

Dino commended the excellent performances of Provincial Treasurer Pedro Ibasco and Provincial Assessor Lilibeth Ocampo and asked them to continue their sterling performance of their job so that they could further contribute to the increase in the level of financial capabilities of the local government units.

He urged others to follow the example of the Province of Albay, which registered the biggest collection in the same year of Php490.1 million or 26 percent of the entire Bicol collection of Php1.9 billion from the six Bicol provinces.

In this connection, the province received an award from the BLGF-Bicol as the Best Performing Local Government, Treasurer and Assessor during the 2nd Quarter Regional Conference of Treasurers and Assessors in Bicol held here on May 7-8. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD/

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Prisoner yields illegal drug

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, May 14 (PNA) -- Authorities are now thoroughly inspecting jail visitors after they found shabu, an illegal drug, from a prisoner of the Tinangis Provincial Jail and Penal Farm at Barangay Tinangis, Pili, Camarines Sur.

A police report identified the suspect as Richard Alcober, 35, single and resident of Zone 4, Balatas, Naga City, who is detained at provincial Jail.

The report said Jail Guard Domingo Gonzaga confiscated the drug at about 1:00 p.m. and immediately asked assistance from members of the Pili Municipal Police Office.

It was learned that before the confiscation of the shabu, somebody visited Alcober.

Gonzaga was surprised when Alcober was opening a plastic sachet which he immediately confiscated.

Other authorities are now examining the confiscated item and are now looking for the visitor who gave the illegal drug to Alcober.

Jail authorities are enforcing tight security in the provincial jail now. (PNA) RMA/FGS/EMC/CBD

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Gov’t rescues CamSur’s poor with new anti-poverty program
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 14 (PNA) -– The national government has come to the rescue of Camarines Sur, Bicol’s largest province that is home to the region’s most number of poor, from the pangs of poverty.

The rescue effort is contained in the Accelerated and Sustainable Anti-Poverty Program (ASAPP) which was recently launched in the province, being one of the 10 provinces of the country classified under Category I or those having the biggest number of poor population in the updated Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016.

The ASAPP is an inter-agency support undertaking which aims to reduce poverty in multiple dimensions through tapping the skills and resources of the poor in enabling private enterprise to expand their production capacities and markets, thus, creating sustainable employment and promoting productivity.

Camarines Sur is third in the country’s 10 provinces with highest poverty incidence -- 771,984 poor individuals of its nearly two million total population as determined by the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) in its latest survey.

In the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) or Listahanan, the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) nationwide information management system that identifies who and where the poor are, the province is listed with 136,208, or 60 percent of its total 226,714 households assessed, identified as poor.

ASAPP, which is also called the “Salubungan” defined as a public-private partnership (PPP) model, aims to significantly reduce Camarines Sur’s 41.2-percent poverty incident to at least 20 percent by next year using the City of Iriga and the municipalities of Bato, Libmanan and Sipocot as the growth hub.

Iriga is a third-class agricultural city located at the heart of Bicol’s economic growth corridor; Bato is a third-class rural municipality famous for its Bato Lake, a sanctuary of various freshwater commercial fish species; Libmanan is a first-class town considered as the “rice basket” not only of the province but also of Southern Luzon; and Sipocot is another first-class municipality known for its rich agriculture.

Under the “Salubungan “ model, the poor is linked with private or social enterprises which may need human and material resources through interventions that include, among others, skills training to increase the poor’s employability in business with growth potential.

It also facilitates trade and market linkages to allow the poor to supply the needed raw materials and provide inputs and services needed by the bigger businesses.

The program was conceptualized by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) while the DSWD and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are its lead and co-convener, respectively.

Its inter-agency coordinating platforms include the Department of Agrarian Reform’s National Convergence Initiative; Local Economic Development of the Department of Interior and Local Government; Philippine Rural Development Program of the Department of Agriculture; Shared Services Facility One Town One Product of the Department of Trade and Industry; DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Project; and the Regional Development Council of the NEDA.

Anti-poverty initiatives to be financed under ASAPP are the Universal Health Care, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), Sustainable Livelihood “ABOT ALAM” and others for informal settler families.

According to the regional office for Bicol here of the NEDA, Camarines Sur’s Gross Domestic Product for 2014 was at 7.5 percent while unemployment rate was 19 percent.

Agnes Espinas, NEDA Bicol regional director, on Wednesday said that although employment targets in the province are being met, poverty remains a major concern, given the fact that there are rapid growth opportunities but not for the poor—meaning in-migrants are attracted but they cannot participate in the growth process.

She said the province’s the per capita income increased by 6.4 percent in 2014 but the gains were eroded by inflation rate that was at 6.5 percent for food, 11.9 percent for rice, 10.3 percent for vegetable and 2.7 percent for non-food items.

Thus, the ASAPP, which is designed to accelerate and sustain poverty reduction by creating employment in the province, comes as remedy as it employs mechanisms to engage the poor as source of labor and raw materials of private or social enterprises serving as direct employers, Espinas explained.

The program’s key elements are economic growth, employment creation, income redistribution and strategies to maintain low food price inflation.

This program also makes use of the current business development programs of the national agencies that include the Small-Medium Enterprise Roving Academy, Shared Service Facilities, Nationwide Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Program, Access of Small Entrepreneurs to Sound Lending Opportunities (ASENSO Program) Microfinance Program, and Doing Business in Free Trade Areas.

Ongoing social empowerment and livelihood programs of the national government such as the CCT, Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan- Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services, National Community-Driven Development Program; Bottom-Up Budgeting, Sustainable Livelihood Program, and Microfinance Program are also involved in this new strategy.

In her message during the launching activities held at Pili, Camarines Sur, DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said the province has two faces: very high growth potential, and yet very big number of poor families.

“Through ASAPP, we should ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor will not widen, and nobody should be left behind,” she said, stressing that “in our laban sa kahirapan, dito tayo magsasalubungan (we converge here in our fight against poverty).”

“To do this, we need changing of hearts, minds and practice,” she added. (PNA) FPV/RCK/FGS/DOC/CBD/RCG